Why Are Most Artists Liberal?

As seen on Big Hollywood

Reality demonstrates that people act on their basest needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs says that basic needs are things like food, shelter, safety, and security. If one progresses up the scale, needs like love, belonging, esteem, and respect become important.

Hollywood is a competitive place to live and work. People who live and work there know that it might be the most competitive place to live in the entire world. The drive to succeed, to find an edge that propels you to the next level can be very compelling for those who are weak. Of those who crave the sort of attention that might compel them into the snake pit that is Hollywood, psychologists could agree that components in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are lacking in key areas such as confidence, friendship, and even morality. All of these mid-level needs should be met for healthy development of creativity, intellect, problem solving, and other high-level needs. Maslow might reason that in the desperate setting of Hollywood, the underdevelopment of needs like morality, confidence, respect of self and from others might lead to the malformative finding of one’s self at the top of the triangle, with many of the more basic needs still lacking. In Abraham Maslow’s terms, this is a recipe for disaster of philosophical incorporation.

Other factors contribute to misintegration of philosophical synthesis, as well.

Artists are often dependent on state funding. This may elicit a reactionary response whereby an artist who might otherwise be conservative is immediately comfortable with the idea of government finance and control in order to meet her basic needs as enumerated in the physiological component of Maslow’s needs (food, water, sex, sleep, survival).

Artists know that success is often found in pushing boundaries. Art is usually only cutting edge once, and genres tend to have a shelf life. There is only one O’Keefe, only one Eastwood, only one Bach. Those genres, recomposed for today, would not have the impact because they already did. The easiest way to create a niche is to push a boundary (for example, Ke$ha, Katie Perry, Madonna). Preserving tradition often results in preserving the status quo, and taking that to a level of marketable creativity is only for the artistic genius (It’s a Wonderful Life; The Passion; The Blind Side; Amazing Grace). The reality is that not all artists are geniuses. Therefore, they will be tempted to crutch on breaking norms to accomplish notoriety, rather than rely on genius they don’t have, or hope to have.

Erich Fromm said, “If I am what I have, and I lose what I have, who am I?” His ominous warning told a tale of the reality of someone who does not properly and systematically actualize.

Creativity is usually born of deep emotional angst. In order to tap into the deepest of creative ability, it is often necessary to dwell on emotions others have the convenience of glossing over. We are all sad when we experience the death of a pet. The creator of King Kong had to not only experience the death of an animal, he had to think of every complexity, and focus in depth on the emotional trauma in order to invite his audience to experience it on film. While we all at some point are witness to the death of an animal, the writers and producers of King Kong had to delve into every painful portion of those experiences, contemplate it, ruminate on it, and experiment with it in order to assure that his audience would live the most compelling parts of that loss in the movie. The result of all this is that the artist dwells in the realm of emotion. While all of us experience emotion, the rest of us have the luxury of moving on. Not the artist. He has to dissect it, magnify it, and live it for months on end. Then, like some cruel joke, the artist is often rewarded for his attention to detail in describing for all of us the precise most painful components of pain, loss, grief, insecurity, and other emotional parts. Thus, the artist is conditioned in a Pavlovian way to act based on emotion. It would seem natural that he would then transpose that action on other elements of his life, including his marriage, his friendships, and his politics.

Artists are not paid for tapping into the power of rationale, but rather, the power of emotion. Therefore, they have no real reason to exercise or even acknowledge the rational argument of a situation. Much of art is fantasy to begin with, for example, one would not appreciate the movie King Kong if the artist explained how a giant gorilla couldn’t really do what his movie depicted. The Harry Potter films would flop, Poe would be a side note, Monet would have sunk right into his pond, and the Twilight would be bankrupt. When an artist takes a look at how to “fix” a social or economic problem, it shouldn’t surprise us that they are looking for heroes and villains, for victims and perpetrators, and for bigger than life fantasies that aren’t based in reality (and therefore won’t work).

Artists are not trained to delve into the gray. They are trained to define the absolutes such as living, dying, good, bad, heaven, and hell in ways that most of us never really have to face. Therefore, when it comes time for an artist to consider possibilities, and rational conclusion in areas like politics that they don’t know, their mind immediately goes to the dramatic—the victim, the hero; the winner, the loser; the angel, the demon.

To further complicate matters, man has an innate need for God, or religion. Conservatives argue that such needs are God breathed, but liberals have to try to push those needs aside. Artists, who tend to be deeply emotional, sociologically less adept, and psychologically needier than the basic population, arguably have a deeper need for God than any other professional population. Liberalism, in it’s cult-like compulsion toward legalistically defined behavior as dictated by leaders (bankers, producers, dealers, funders) in Hollywood, and one that provides a sort of moral promise of victory, can be very alluring. This allure meets the higher level Maslovian esteem needs that the artist may not be prepared for if he has not met the lower level needs, as he has not in many cases. Thus, liberalism becomes a pseudo religion whereby answers to other unmet Maslovian needs promise to be met somehow; some way. As the expectation continues to exceed the outcome, the artist may grow weary of their religion of “Liberalism,” and make the switch! This may explain why many artists become conservatives

This predisposition toward emotionality and validation would make the most sound minded, conservative-leaning artist somewhat reactionary. The combination of gratification for emotional response to stimulus, and the fact that most artists deal in a fictional depiction of absolutes would naturally lead to a skewed perception of how people really work. Artists are not rewarded for reality. They are rewarded most often for their dramatic, condensed representation of what reality could be.

So the question becomes then—why do artists feel compelled or qualified to delve into the political when they have no training for it at all, and even their life experience lacks credentials necessary to relate to real Americans who don’t live in Hollywood? Should they not simply exclude themselves, much like a judge does when she knows she has conflicting experience that might impede her rational judgment in a case? Well, no, because we believe in freedom under the US Constitution—even under the knowledge that freedom could result in loss of liberties for having them.

In, John J. Ray has a theory about fame and ego that is too good to paraphrase:

My basic proposal, then, is that most (but not all) Leftists/liberals are motivated by strong ego needs — needs for power, attention, praise and fame. And in the USA and other developed countries they satisfy this need by advocating large changes in the society around them — thus drawing attention to themselves and hopefully causing themselves to be seen as wise, innovative, caring etc. Rightists by contrast have no need either for change or its opposite and may oppose change if they see it as destructive or favour change if they see it as constructive.

We will see below why one of the most consistent themes to emerge from the Leftist’s love of change is the claimed need for “equality”. And the belief in “equality” also tends to lead to support for such things as redistribution of wealth generally, heavily “progressive” income taxes, inheritance taxes, foreign aid, feminism, gay rights and socialized medicine. Again for reasons explored below, Leftists also tend to oppose religion and the churches and this in turn tends to mean that they favour abortion and oppose or obstruct religious schooling in various ways. So let us now briefly look at some of these characteristic Leftist/liberal themes to see how they relate to basic Leftist motives.

And he concludes:

But in all cases, bitter experience has shown that Leftists in power are very dangerous and destructive people. Where their power is effectively unchecked, they generally seem to resort sooner or later to mass murder (as in the case of the French revolutionaries, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Jim Jones and many Communist regimes and movements worldwide) and where they are partially thwarted by strong democratic traditions and institutions, they at least bring about large-scale impoverishment (as in post-independence India and pre-Thatcher Britain).

All people including artists want to believe that their work is meaningful and significant. For artists, this propels their belief that human nature is changeable with proper “education” which thereby gives credence to their work. Thus, to believe in their own meaningful output of work product, they must fancy themselves “educators” capable of changing people in important ways.

If you believe, as I do, and as John J. Ray does, that liberalism is inherently destructive and conservatism, while imperfect, is the far better alternative, then you need to know that my psychological training perceives hope on the horizon, because of the current liberal artists’ dilemma: the liberal artist is marketing today to a glowingly conservative consumer. Conservatives are crying out for family oriented, morally compelling, traditional values that once graced the silver screen and our television sets. The heart of America is sentimental for a turn back to the roots of Hollywood. If the market is demanding enough, it just might result in the artists resorting to Maslow’s Hierarchy to make a living to meet their basic needs, and that might look a lot like the recent mid term elections when we just threw the bastards out and changed the course of history.

Bravo, Hollywood. The best is yet to come.



  1. I’m an artist that has grown up in rural Missouri, but has had plenty of urbanized experience to understand the contrast between the two. Other than it being fashionable to claim a facade of being “unshackled” from traditionalism, I don’t believe there’s been any lasting benefit for a creative minded individual or group to lean towards the left. Regardless, this modern trend doesn’t really reflect the ideals of some of the most brilliant creatives of our national and world history. God, morality, or Biblical law hasn’t always been seen as a constraint, but a solid foundation with which to develop some of the most profound discoveries, writing, or artwork our world has ever seen. This spirit of charity, which is reflected through the work of these predecessors, is rarely seen in the ego-centric, selfish appetites of many so-called creatives today. Anyway, I’ve tried to focus on giving back to the community through the utilization of talent in education – whether that be through essays, cartoons, historical drawings, or community service.

  2. “Artists are not trained to delve into the gray. They are trained to define the absolutes such as living, dying, good, bad, heaven, and hell in ways that most of us never really have to face. Therefore, when it comes time for an artist to consider possibilities, and rational conclusion in areas like politics that they don’t know, their mind immediately goes to the dramatic—the victim, the hero; the winner, the loser; the angel, the demon.”
    What?? Conservatives are into black and white not grey! Artists live in gray areas because we are comfortable with ambiguity and incongruence. Conservatives are in a hurry to slap labels on whole groups of people and lack any sensitivity to individuals and expression.

  3. “But in all cases, bitter experience has shown that Leftists in power are very dangerous and destructive people. Where their power is effectively unchecked, they generally seem to resort sooner or later to mass murder (as in the case of the French revolutionaries, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Jim Jones and many Communist regimes and movements worldwide) and where they are partially thwarted by strong democratic traditions and institutions, they at least bring about large-scale impoverishment (as in post-independence India and pre-Thatcher Britain).”
    People who lean liberal are not communist! These horrific people were fascists who believed their worldview was the only worldview and then they killed people who did not fit. This is what many conservatives do ideologically. If conservatives had their way and eliminated welfare children would die of starvation.

  4. This is so off…This is clearly written by a person who does not have an artistic bone in their body–I don’t say that to be mean, I say it because you clearly don’t understand the psyche of a creative individual. We don’t deal in black and white; almost all art deals with the ambiguous, the nebulous, and those ideas/morals which are difficult to pin down. Think “In Cold Blood,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Death of a Salesman,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” and so on–all of these books question the values and accepted moralities of society in a way that isn’t meant to be “edgy” as you say. Think about the racism that killed Tom Robinson in TKAMB…it stemmed from society’s inability to accept an interracial relationship. Tom Wolfe (who is more conservative than most writers/artists) often turns this spotlight on the radical movements of the left (think “Radical Chic”) but often nods to the good intentions of the individuals involved…his conclusion often lands somewhere in between (i.e. a gray zone). By definition, creative individuals are prone to divergent thinking which brings their minds to previously unexplored, unexpected places which are often riddled with the ambiguous and indefinite. I believe the true reason why so many artists are liberal is that they have the ability to imagine and conceive of a life that is different than theirs–they have the capacity for intense empathy…This isn’t to say that conservatives don’t, but I feel that they aren’t able understand the feelings of those who are COMPLETELY different than them (people who are gay, those who are mired in extreme poverty, those who are the victims of racism on a daily basis, and so on). You may be closer to the truth when you say that artists are often dependent on state sponsorship, but I think you are confusing cause and effect in this case…Ever since the industrial revolution, the profession of the artist or the fine artisan has been cut out of daily life (for the most part). Thus, we are more likely to have difficulty finding work, and are more likely to slip through society’s cracks–thus, most of us have seen what its like to live how “the other half” lives…We know how close we come to extreme poverty every day (even if we are successful) and thus have sympathy for those who live on the underside of American life. We aren’t state worshiping money-grubbers, we just know how important a social safety net is. However, it is important to point out that most artists really don’t receive much state sponsorship…I mean, how many towns really engage in active sponsorship of public sculptures and murals and so forth? Most towns may have one or two of each but rarely have any ongoing projects–the artist can very rarely RELY on public money–he/she more often has to seek out private customers.

  5. Some artists have products or services that sell well enough to provide them a living from voluntary customers; most do not. And even those who do may have gone through a long period of hardship before their products or services sold well enough to provide a living from voluntary customers.

    This is in contrast to many mechanic, barbers, cooks, farmers, fishermen, and miners, whose products and services typically command a high enough price from voluntary customers to provide them a living.

    But artists still need to eat and pay the rent, whether they can get enough voluntary customers or not, and they think their craft is important. And in some cases, it is, but the problem is getting those customers to recognize that importance before the artist goes broke.

    And so, many artists come to advocate the collection of funds from involuntary customers, such as taxpayers, in the name of “fairness”. And if they can get other poor people, whose products and services also aren’t doing well, or who have no products or services, to join causes with them, then their prospects of voting people into office who will compel customers to fund their products and services – or at least their lifestyle – improves.

    This notion – using the force of government to compel others to fund things they would not purchase voluntarily – is the essence of modern “liberalism” or “progressivism” – especially if it can be framed in terms of “compassion”. Real compassion would be voluntary.

    This kind of liberalism does not come from a superior imagination, and it certainly does not come from a greater capacity for actual compassion – it just comes from a willingness to use political power to force economic results more favorable to one who would otherwise have difficulty surviving by continuing to live or work as they do.

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